Throughout 2008, allegations of French police ill-treatment of minorities were made by civil society. A 2009 Amnesty International report said that unlawful killings, beatings, racial abuse and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials are rarely investigated effectively and those responsible seldom brought to justice. Although the victims of illtreatment and other human rights violations include men and women of all age groups, the vast majority of complaints concern French citizens from ethnic minorities or foreign nationals.

A major grievance during the 2005 riots in the Paris suburbs was discrimination against young people of Arab and African origin in employment.

The government was keen to point out that the situation has improved and that French companies are hiring more people from deprived neighbourhoods. Others, in particular the residents of such neighbourhoods, said little had changed. In particular, Muslim women who wear headscarves are less likely to get jobs in spite of the degrees they may hold. France has the largest Muslim community in Europe. A significant segment of the population, moreover, is of African and Caribbean origin.

In December 2008, Yazid Sabeg, of Algerian origin, was nominated as the government's diversity and equal opportunities commissioner. One of his main objectives is to find the appropriate way of collecting information on diversity and disaggregated statistics. Since 1978, legal barriers have been put in place banning the collection of data referring to racial or ethnic origin. President Nicolas Sarkozy recognized publicly that the lack of data on ethnic minorities was hampering the ability to measure inequality and deal with it (see chapter by Zoë Gray).

In December 2008, the ECtHR ruled that the French school ban on headscarves was not a violation of the ECHR. In the cases of Dogru v. France and Kervanci v. France, the ECtHR unanimously held that there had been no violation of Article 9, which protects the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The applicants were expelled from school for wearing headscarves during physical education classes. In the ECtHR's opinion, the purpose of the restriction on the applicants' right to manifest their religious convictions was to adhere to the requirements of secularism in state schools.

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